Medical Acupuncture for Long-Covid Symptoms
Last year, we published a blog about Long-Covid, what it is and how physiotherapy can help you.
In this follow-up, I describe how Medical Acupuncture may help alleviate the symptoms of Long-Covid.
A quick recap: The umbrella term Long-Covid describes the persistence of symptoms for longer than four weeks, while Post-Covid refers to symptoms that persist for longer than 12 weeks. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably.
Some common Long-Covid symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Headaches, confusion, or seizures
- Reduced concentration or "brain fog."
- Joint or muscle pain
- Chest Pain or tightness
- Loss of Smell (anosmia)
The symptoms of Long-Covid may resemble those of chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalitis or other post-viral syndromes, such as EPV and herpes zoster.
More recent data has shown that Long Covid and Post Covid affect mostly young women below 40 years old.
Acupuncture for Insomnia
Acupuncture can be helpful in the treatment of insomnia and poor sleep for a few different reasons. Acupuncture has central regulatory effects, including within the brain's limbic system (our emotional centre) and our autonomic nervous system, which controls our 'fight or flight' responses to stress. Acupuncture triggers an overall calming effect setting us up for a better night's sleep.
There is also research to show that acupuncture promotes melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by our bodies that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle, encouraging a good night's sleep.
Acupuncture for Fatigue
Perhaps the main benefit of acupuncture for fatigue is improvement in sleep quality and patterns, as discussed above. However, acupuncture has another effect that can be beneficial in managing fatigue - the release of endorphins. Endorphins are commonly known as our 'feel-good' chemicals produced naturally within the body, resulting in increased well-being and alertness.
Acupuncture for Breathlessness
While there are many opinions about how exactly acupuncture works in relieving breathlessness, the benefits are widely discussed in the literature across many different conditions. Some experts suggest that the benefits are due to relaxing hyperactive respiratory muscles and regulating the autonomic nervous system, as described above. Regardless of the mechanisms, it appears that acupuncture can assist in reducing the symptoms of shortness of breath.
Acupuncture for Pain and Headaches
There are many reasons we can successfully treat and relieve pain in the body using acupuncture. One reason is the release of the endorphins I mentioned earlier. Endorphins act on the opioid receptors in the brain like opiate drugs such as morphine might, modulating pain and promoting a sense of well-being. We also know acupuncture promotes the release of other neuromediators, such as dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline, which positively influence pain. Muscular tension, which can be particularly important in treating headaches, has also been shown to decrease in response to acupuncture treatment.
I often combine Medical Acupuncture with other physiotherapy treatment techniques, such as gentle therapeutic exercises, pacing strategies, and lifestyle advice, to achieve the best results for my patients.
By Lorraine Carroll MPhyt, BSc Physio, CMA
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